POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 11, 2010
The phone call began as routine wrong-number conversations do.
"Who am I calling?" the woman asked, and without waiting for a response submitted a second question. "What's this number?"
Shaking away annoyance, I answered evenly with my own. "Who do you want to speak to? What number did you dial?"
Then came an elaborate explanation that boiled down to this: She had been on the phone when a "call-waiting" signal went off. The display showed the letters "O, I, and C," she said. Not knowing who or what that was, she consulted her phone book where she found my last name and first name initial.
I assured her I wasn't her call-waiter. She apologized. I said it was OK and prepared to hang up, but the tension coming across the line made me hesitate.
She repeated her apology, then sighed. Phone calls from politicians were making her crazy, she said. Most times, it wasn't even a live person. "I mean, I don't think that was really Bill Clinton calling me up," she huffed.
I tried to calm her, agreeing that robocalls were a nuisance, advising her to use her high-tech telephone to screen the unwanted buzz.
But she went on about how she would be glad when the elections were over and she could watch television free of the I-approve-this-message ads and the other-guy-is-a-loser-so-vote-for-me commercials that were an irritant as well.
I needed to get to work. Hoping to end the conversation, I blurted out that elections are never over, that campaigns never really end, that they just take different forms.
Witness the newly muscular Republican majority already flexing pecs in Congress. Take a look at beefy Democrats in the state Legislature polishing up familiar digs. Every one of them -- from seasoned top-floor office-holders to county representatives courting fresh colleagues to solidify alliances -- is gearing up for the next big race.
It is the nature of political beasts to shape decisions for best personal returns. If, by chance, regular people also benefit, they call it good. But all too often, the intoxicating motive is more power, to put down an opponent, to win despite harm to nation and citizen.
I was surprised to read that climate change skeptics in the U.S. House will retain a global warming and clean energy committee, which was set up to focus on needed programs and legislation. Not surprising is that the panel will shift purpose to investigate administration policies and the Environmental Protection Agency. To heck with saving the planet.
Not to be outdone, the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee will direct his seven subcommittees to conduct one or two hearings each week on everything from health care legislation to the Presidential Records Act. Checks on spending and mismanagement are necessary, but TV face time seems to be the stimulus here.
My wrong-number caller agreed that the political cycle is ceaseless. She paused for a few seconds, sighed again, then started sounding off on the holiday season. At which point I chirped, "happy holidays," and put down the phone.
Cynthia Oi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.